For the Christian, prayer is part of what we are. It should be more than second nature, it should be first nature…and yet, for many of us, we struggle throughout our lives trying to develop our “prayer life” to the point of our own satisfaction. Many times, especially in times of backsliding, we often hesitate to pray, thinking that our prayers will not be heard on account of our complete lack of personal righteousness. This line of thinking, however, is incorrect. Our prayers are never heard because of anything inherent in us, but are heard and answered solely because of the faithfulness and mercy of God. As Luther says, writing on Luke 18.9-14:
Some say, “I would feel better about God hearing my prayer if I were more worthy and lived a better life.” I simply answer: If you don’t want to pray before you feel that you are worthy or qualified, then you will never pray again. Prayer must not be based on or depend on your personal worthiness or the quality of the prayer itself; rather, it must be based on the unchanging truth of God’s promise. If the prayer is based on itself or on anything else besides God’s promise, then it’s a false prayer that deceives you–even if your heart is breaking with intense devotion and you are weeping drops of blood.
We pray because we are unworthy to pray. Our prayers are heard precisely because we believe that we are unworthy. We become worthy to pray when we risk everything on God’s faithfulness alone.
As usual, Luther totally nails this, “We become worthy to pray when we risk everything on God’s faithfulness alone.” Yes! Prayer is risky business, not because of our unrighteousness but because of our complete and utter dependence upon God!